Thirteen-year-old Joey starts to tear up when he thinks back to the moment he found out his wish would come true.
“I was really sick … it was a lot to handle. But later, in dreaming, I started to see the bright side about it,” he said.
Joey was diagnosed with a brain tumor when he was 10 years old. He went in to surgery the next day, where doctors removed the entire tumor and immediately started radiation. Then he started chemotherapy.
“Joey found out he would get a wish toward the beginning of his treatment,” said his stepmom, Emily. “At the time, he was so, so sick and it was really hard to think how we could even enjoy this wish when life was so crummy.”
But Joey kept dreaming. And finally, he felt well enough to choose his wish.
Joey’s biggest passion is archaeology. He loves the idea of digging up old things, and he wants to be an archaeologist or paleontologist when he grows up. “Every time I see a dino dig kit at the store, I always want it,” Joey said.
So it came as little surprise that Joey wished to go on an archaeological dig.
Together with his family, Joey explored the Museum of the Rockies in Montana, which is home to one of the largest collections of dinosaur fossils in the world. He saw Triceratops and T. rex skeletons. Joey even went behind-the-scenes to see fossils from the dig site, still encased in plaster and ready to be uncovered.
The next day, Joey joined a group of paleontologists and college students at a dig site. He learned how scientists identify and excavate the fossils. He took a turn at chipping away some stone. And Joey tried the ‘tongue test,’ where he could tell the difference between a fossil and a piece of stone by holding it against his tongue.
Joey even got to meet Dr. Jack Horner, who consulted on the Jurassic Park films. “He’s like the head paleontologist anywhere,” said Joey.
All in all, Joey’s wish was a turning point for his family.
“When we first got offered a wish, it was so hard because Joey was so sick. It didn’t really hit us how much it would impact our lives,” said Joey’s dad, Ameen.
“The recovery process was long and hard on all of us. But it finally feels like we’re back to a new normal,” added Emily.
Now, Joey is starting middle school and looking forward to getting back to that new normal. More than ever, he wants to become a paleontologist someday.
“If you want to become a paleontologist, you have to really like dinosaurs,” said Joey.
Special thanks to Adopt-A-Wish® sponsor Wells Fargo, Make-A-Wish Montana, Alaska Airlines, Museum of the Rockies, Montana State University and wish-granting volunteers Carol Heigh and Susie Naye.